Robi and I slept in the room with two other guys. As we were the first ones to check in, we managed to get the bottom bunks. The guy occupying the top bunk of my bed caught my attention because he had books in his backpack. It made sense when I learned he started his trek from Paris. His walk was the longest for anyone I have encountered during this trip. He had been walking for the past two months, the books must have kept him company in a number of stops where he had not much to do. His name was Florent.
I can't recall much about our room but I took a photo of it before Robi and I started the trek on Day 3. It was already 7 am when we stepped out of the albergue but it was still dark.
It was such a pity that I was so tired when I arrived at Astorga the day before because I never had the chance to explore the city which I was pretty sure had magnificent landmarks based on the pamphlets scattered in the lounge area of the albergue. Oh well, perhaps someday I will go back again to this town and get more intimate with it.
My power bank had a flashlight which I had been using to light our path. I turned it off by the time we were leaving Valdeviejas. I remember seeing the red sign slashed across town name. I still had not figured out what it meant at this point of the walk. (I eventually figured the red mark meant you were already going outside the boundary of the town)
The path led us to a bridge. It was not much picture-worthy but with the sun rising I thought it gave a good glow in the background. Like some sort of hope or a promise of a new day, of possibilities.
My right leg was limping but my pace was manageable. Though slightly better than it was the evening before, I was worried that I was slowing down Robi. He did not mind he said. Still at that time I wished I were travelling solo.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the company of Robi but there was much more freedom in travelling alone, knowing you can adjust your speed or stop wherever you want without worrying about someone’s else’s opinion.
And if your leg was hurting a bit, how much you long for this flexibility
Looking back at it now I think I was travelling myself much faster than usual despite the slight pain because I did not want to be much of hassle to Robi.
The route would lead us to a path that cut through a field. There was not much to see on either side, nothing that was worth noting. I surmise the path was not something the locals would use doing their daily routine. It was mainly built for the pilgrims, the shortest path between two towns.
Every kilometer or so a landmark or a road sign would appear with a shell on it. A shell that now has been a mark woven into the fabric of our peripatetic lives. The mark of St. James.
A few meters before the next town the highest structure of the place would pop ahead in the distance. It would serve as a symbol of hope that yes weary traveller, you are fast approaching a good place to stop.
This one was quite memorable for me because we had walked for about 8 kilometers before hitting this place. Finally.
A refuge, a haven to give a break to your sore muscles, to fill your tummies or simply to renew your will that indeed the walk was worth finishing.
We stopped at the first bar that we encountered. There was actually a guy strategically standing 50 meters before the town entrance who promoted another bar further on. Any other day I would have tried his recommendation but at that time my mind was on autopilot. I just felt like resting my aching body on the first available bar.
We stopped at the first one we saw which was on the right side. It was one of those typical bars that offered the usual coffee, colacao, fruit and other bite-sized energy boosters. Of course it had Wifi. World changing events could happen during the time we were walking so I had to check my most reliable source of up to date news… my fb news feeds.
After having a well deserved break and having our passports stamped we trudged on, our backpacks seemingly getting heavier by the minute. We were at Santa Catalina de Gomoza. Nothing really worth noting at this stop except that I bought a walking cane at this place. It was 4 euros for a piece of thick stick that was smoothened, a bit pricey but I thought that I was helping the old lady who was selling it on her doorstep make a living.
I was also hoping the stick would alleviate the pain on my right leg, which would get abnormally painful for a few minutes whenever I pause for a long break.
We passed by a sign that said 249 kilometers to go. I posed beside it jokingly putting on my dismayed face. Jokes were half meant. Despite the humour of it all there was a growing concern in me if I would make it leisurely to the end now that my leg was beginning to be more than a just a mere nuisance.
Robi and I agreed to follow the "for every 4- one" rule. This meant that for every 4 kilometres or so we would stop for 5-10 minutes to massage our feet. It quite helped eased the pain a bit
On the way to El Ganso to brighten the mood Robi and I sang songs along the way. Most of the time he was just humming the tune because he was not much familiar with the lyicrs. But when I played the song "It's my life" by Bon Jovi on my phone, all hell broke loose.
For that span of time it's as if we were in a music festival singing at the top of our lungs. It was a reminder for me that this walk was supposed to be fun.
But it started to rain heavily when we reached El Ganso. (Maybe the gods were not pleased with our singing voices?). We had no choice but to take a break at another bar. At this point my leg was really aching so much that it was Robi who entered the bar and ordered for my colacao (a Spanish chocolate drink). While I know I would look hideous in this selfie I had to capture that moment of weariness and desperation.
I recall seeing what looked like a cemetery on my right. I suddenly had some weird thoughts. What if my father (who died a year ago) was watching just beyond the clearing? I offered a silent prayer to him. And one for me as well that I would have the strength to finish the walk for the day.
I stopped and waited for Robi at this part of the walk because I wasn't seeing yellow arrow signs anymore. Intuitively we just thought of going straight ahead.
I had to choose between options : walk on the muddy road which would give more cushion to my feet but wet ( my shoes were not waterproof and my socks were getting damp) or the concrete road which offered no cushion but dry. In the end I chose the road.
We came upon this clearing which provided a change of scenery. It led us to another path which was close by the road.
As were registering in the albergue that was donative, a British guy who was a volunteer in the albergue offended me. He was really rude. Which was a pity because he was a volunteer and was supposed to be courteous.
I do not want to elaborate the details here anymore. Robi did not know anything about it at that time. I just made up an excuse that I wanted to stay in another albergue because I needed to have Wifi.
And so Robi and I slept at different albergues. I just messaged him in WhatsApp that I will catch up with him the following day.
A Spanish guy in the pace where I stayed saw how I hobbled and lent me his spray liniment to soothe the pain. It helped a bit.
I thought I could travel at the same rate on Day 4.
Oh no. I was dead wrong. The most painful walk would happen on Day 4.